The travel itinerary I planned for myself included 4 nights and 3 full days in the city of Osaka, and the surrounding Kansai-area, the purchase of the Japan Rail’s “ICOCA & HARUKA” pass along with the 3 day Kansai Area rail pass – would allow me to venture outside of Osaka and Kyoto to other cities in the region, including my 3 planned stops: Himeji, Kobe, and Nara- as well as transportation from Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto to Osaka and return to the airport on the last day. The total price for all my transportation needs (trains, subways, and buses) was 4,060Yen for the ICOCA & HARUKA pass and 5,300Yen for the 3 day Kansai Area Rail pass for a 6 night, 7 day trip.
Whenever I travel around Asia, I am always fascinated with each city, each country’s historical and cultural heritages. While researching for a potential trip to Osaka, I stumbled upon this small city of Nara, which was once the capital city of Japan from 710AD – 794AD and still had many of its temples, shrines and ruins remaining or rebuilt in the case of Tōdai-ji. I knew I had to visit here to experience it myself and thus, was placed in one of the day trips I could take from Osaka. The train ride from Osaka Station was about 55 minutes and 35 minutes from Tennoji Station. I was met at Nara train station around 11am by my local guide who had experience guiding foreigners around the city’s main sights.
We set off on foot for a 10 minute walk to reach the first sight, Kōfuku-ji. Kōfuku-ji is a Buddhist temple that was once was one of the powerful Seven Great Temples in Japan and today is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Another thing if you haven’t noticed is that I try to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as possible when visiting the respective countries. When we arrived, I began spotting some deers just randomly walking, unaware of its importance in the city, which later I found out once we were wandering around Nara Park and near Tōdai-ji.
One of the main monuments in Kōfuku-ji is Gojū-no-tō- the five-story pagoda seen in the photo on the left and another monument is the Tōkondō seen on the right photo. Through its history, the temple had been burned down several times and rebuilt as a result. Inside the Tōkondō is a golden Buddha and an important cultural property, the Yakushi Nyorai.
From Kōfuku-ji, we started making our way towards Tōdai-ji, the Buddhist temple complex that was once was also one of the powerful Seven Great Temples in Japan and today is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But on the way there, we walked through Nara Park where I was overtaken by numerous numbers of deers everywhere. I made the decision to also buy some of the crackers they were selling to feed the deers, but that wasn’t the best idea as I was swarmed and stalked by deers right and left.
Turns out in the city of Nara, deers are regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam the grounds and city freely- with my guide saying, the deer is more important than other humans, in comparison of a deer or a human being hit by a car. On the way to the main complex temple of Tōdai-ji, are two beautiful gates, the first being seen on the feature image at the top, Nandaimon, the Great Southern Gate, and the second being the gate in the image above. The lush green field was maybe some of the greenest lawns I have seen and there were many other tourists and students on field trips.
The Great Buddha Hall (daibutsuden) building in the Tōdai-ji complex is perhaps the largest Buddhist temple I have ever seen as it does house the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world, called Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu (大仏). The Buddha statue is 14.98 meters tall and weighs 500 tonnes. The latest reconstruction was done in 1709.
Along with the large Buddha statues, a supporting post in the Daibutsuden has a hole said to be the same size as one of the Daibutsu’s nostrils. Legend has it that those who pass through it will be blessed with enlightenment in their next life. There happened to be a French couple who both successfully crawled through the tight gap.
After this was lunch and I was looking forward to try some traditional home-style Japanese food. We stopped by this small cafe/restaurant in Nara called Nico Style Cafe, tucked in one of the quiet streets lined with other small shops and buildings. The main choice in dishes was the chicken or fish or both options. I obviously had to choose both options which can be seen in the two small bowls on the right side. Served with side dishes of radishes, pickles, pumpkin, krill, and miso soup. The tastes from everything complimented my palette and was finished with a pomegranate (sakura) juice. Delicious!
By the time we finished lunch, the sun continued intensifying as I made my way back to Nara Station to catch a train back towards Osaka Station where I would explore around the Umeda area near Osaka Station